Dick and Dollyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Please forgive us,” said Dick, holding out his little hand. “We’ve had a lovely time, – and, – and we hope you’ll come to see us.”
“I can’t make you out!” said Mrs. Hampton, looking at the children in perplexity. “I thought you threw down that ice cream purposely.”
“Oh, no!” cried both twins at once, and Dolly went on eagerly: “you see, we never saw low-necked ladies and gentlemen at a party before; and we were so awfully interested, we leaned over to see better, and I s’pose the gas-lights heated up our ice cream and melted it, and it just slipped off the plates.”
“We ought to have held the plates more level,” said Dick, thoughtfully; “I’m sorry we didn’t.”
“I’m sorry, too, for you mortified me terribly and annoyed my guests, which was worse.”
“It’s terrible!” said Dolly, with a sigh. “I don’t see how you can forgive us.”
“I couldn’t if you weren’t such a sweet little culprit,” said Mrs. Hampton, smiling, and catching Dolly in her arms and kissing her. Then she kissed Dick too, and, still smiling, she hurried away.
The maid found the children’s hats, and hurried them down the back stairs, where the coachman was waiting for them. Evidently the servants were not as forgiving as Mrs. Hampton, for Dick and Dolly were fairly hustled into the carriage, the door was banged shut, and they were rapidly driven homeward.
At Dana Dene, they were met on the threshold by two very frightened-looking ladies, and while Aunt Rachel and Aunt Abbie each clasped a twin in her arms, the Hampton carriage drove away.
“You dear babies! where have you been?” cried Aunt Abbie, while Aunt Rachel squeezed Dick with an affection too deep for words.
“Where have we been?” cried Dick, in amazement. “Why, we’ve been at Mrs. Hampton’s, where you told us to go, and wait for you. We’ve been waiting there ever since five o’clock!”
“Why, Dickie, dear,” expostulated Miss Rachel, “we went to Mrs. Hampton’s at five o’clock, and waited there for you until nearly six! Then we came home, and ever since we’ve been nearly frantic because we didn’t know where you were. Michael and Pat have been out hunting with lanterns.”
“But, Auntie, dear,” said Dolly, “we did go to Mrs. Hampton’s, and after we waited and waited, and you didn’t come, she gave us supper in her sitting-room, ’cause she had a dinner party in the dining-room, and the ladies had on beautiful frocks, all lacy and low-necked, and we spilled ice cream on ’em!”
“Yes’m; we didn’t mean to, you know, but it melted.”
“Dolly, what are you talking about? Mrs. Hampton is not having a dinner party this evening. I just left there at six o’clock, so I know.”
“Well, our Mrs. Hampton is,” said Dick. “Are there two Mrs. Hamptons in Heatherton, auntie?”
“No, of course there aren’t! I wonder where you have been!”
“Well, she is Mrs. Hampton, we called her that, and so did the maid.
It’s a beautiful house, – with a great big open round in the hall, where you can look down, – and a fountain outside.”
Miss Rachel sent for Michael.
“Michael,” said she, “where do you suppose these children have been? Whose carriage brought them home?”
“I don’t know, Miss Rachel. It’s a new turnout in Heatherton. All swell, jingly harness and livery, an’ the like o’ that.”
“Dolly says they live in a big white house with a fountain in front.”
“Arrah, thin, it’s the new people as is afther takin’ the Van Zandt place. A widdy lady of great forchin, I’m towld; an’ be the same token, I do belave they said her name was Hampden, or somethin’ like that.”
Of course that was the explanation. Mrs. Hampden was a wealthy young widow who had just came to Heatherton to live. The Dana ladies did not know her, and probably never would have known her had it not been for the twins’ escapade.
For lively little Mrs. Hampden belonged to a gay, modern set that had little in common with the Dana ladies’ older and more conservative circle of friends. Also, she was not at all like the Mrs. Hampton on whom Miss Rachel and Miss Abbie were calling, and where the twins were expected to meet them.
But as the real fault lay at the aunties’ door, inasmuch as they had not given the twins sufficiently explicit directions, it did not seem fair to blame Dick and Dolly.
And after hearing the story the twins told, Miss Rachel and Miss Abbie saw that it was their duty to call on Mrs. Hampden, and apologise for the trouble the children had made for her.
This was not a pleasant or an easy thing to do, but as it turned out, Mrs. Hampden was so flattered at having the Dana ladies call on her that she willingly forgave the children’s escapade, and begged that they might be allowed to come to see her again.
This was not promised, for Miss Rachel Dana of Dana Dene was very careful about making new acquaintances, and considered her present visiting list quite long enough. The children themselves had no wish to go again to the house where they had met with such an untoward accident, and so the incident was closed, and the aunts trusted that Mrs. Hampden would not return their call.
“But I do think,” said Aunt Abbie, as they discussed the matter at home, “that you two children ought to be reproved for spilling that ice cream.”
“I think so, too,” said Dick, cheerfully, “but ’course you know, auntie, that we didn’t mean to do it.”
“Certainly,” said Aunt Abbie, with some asperity, “I don’t suppose you poured it down on the people purposely. But you are quite old enough to know better than to walk about with saucers of food in your hands.”
“So we are!” said Dolly, as if surprised at the fact. “Aunt Abbie, I do believe we’re ’ceedingly bad children!”
“Not exactly that,” said Aunt Abbie, smiling in spite of herself, “but you are exceedingly thoughtless, and I want you to strive to correct that fault.”
“Yes’m,” said Dick, earnestly, “we’ll strive like fury. Honest, we will, Aunt Abbie. Won’t we, Doll?”
“Yes, indeedy!” agreed Dolly, with a very affirmative wagging of her head. “And now, if you’re all through scolding, Aunt Abbie, may we kiss you?”
Then, without waiting for the requested permission, both children tumbled themselves upon Miss Abbie, and gave her the soft answer that turneth away wrath. For who could continue to reprove two affectionate small persons, whose chubby arms flew about in wild caresses, and whose insistent kisses fell just wherever they happened to land? But Miss Abbie Dana was determined to instil some sense of decorum into her young charges, so when released from their embraces, she began again:
“Now that’s another thing, children; I want you to love me, of course. But it seems to me you needn’t be so – so – ”
“Rampageous?” volunteered Dick. “That’s what Pat says we are.”
“We can’t help it, auntie,” said Dolly, fixing her big brown eyes solemnly on her aunt. “You see, we’re so ’thusiastic that when we love anybody we love ’em fearful! And we just ’dore you and Aunt Rachel. Don’t we, Dick?”
“Well, I guess!” and then Miss Abbie had to stand another series of pats and kisses, which, in view of the recent conversation, the twins made a little less boisterous.
“Well, you’re dear little twinsies,” said Aunt Abbie, as at last they ran away.
“And,” she added to herself, “I think I can make them improve their manners by just keeping at it.”
Poor Miss Abbie wanted to bring the children up rightly, but the work was so new to her she didn’t know exactly how to conduct it.
As for Miss Rachel, she vibrated between over-indulgence and over-severity, an occasion of one being conscientiously followed by the other.
So the twins nearly always had their own sweet way, and as, though sometimes thoughtless, they were not mischievous children, Dana Dene was brighter and happier for their presence.
One Monday the aunties were getting ready for the Reading Circle, which was to meet at Dana Dene in the afternoon. It was very inconvenient for all the members that the club should meet on washdays, but as it always had done so, of course that couldn’t be changed.
Some ladies had the washing put off till Tuesday, but life at Dana Dene was far too methodical for that.
So when the club was expected, Delia tried to get her wash all hung out by noon, and so be ready to help in the afternoon. For, though the club didn’t assemble until three o’clock, and tea was served at five, there was much to be done in the way of prinking up the house for the occasion. The twins were allowed to help, and Dolly dusted, and brought water for the flower vases, and helped adjust fresh pillow-shams and bureau covers, until Aunt Rachel declared she didn’t know how she ever got ready for Reading Circle without Dolly’s help. And Dick’s as well; for he cut flowers, and ran lots of errands, and did lots of useful things.
And when, at about eleven o’clock, he saw the telegram boy coming with a yellow envelope, he took it and flew to Aunt Rachel with it faster than any one else could have done.
“For gracious goodness’ sake!” exclaimed Miss Rachel as she read it; “Aunt Nine is coming to dinner to-day!”
“To-day!” said Miss Abbie in a tone positively tragic, as she sank down in a big chair. “Why, she can’t, Rachel! It’s after eleven now, and the Reading Circle coming at three, and nothing but cold beef for dinner!”
“It doesn’t matter whether she can or not; she’s coming,” and Miss Rachel, who had turned fairly white with dismay, sat down opposite her sister.
“Who’s Aunt Nine? What a funny name!” cried Dick, dancing around in excited curiosity.
Dolly picked up the telegram, which had fluttered to the floor.
“‘Will arrive at twelve-thirty,’” she read; “‘meet me at the station.’”
“Why, it’s signed ‘P. Dana,’” said Dick. “How can P. Dana be Aunt Nine? How can it, Aunt Abbie?” He squeezed into the big chair beside Miss Abbie, and patted her cheek to attract her attention. “How can it? How does P. stand for Nine? Or do you mean nine aunts are coming? Oh, Doll, wouldn’t that be fun?”
“Tell me,” urged Dolly, squeezing herself into Aunt Rachel’s lap, “tell me first, auntie, ’fore Dick knows. Quick, tell me! Who’s Aunt Nine? What does it mean?”
“Oh, Dolly, for mercy’s sake don’t bother me now! She’s Aunt Penninah, your great-aunt, of course. We always call her Aunt Nine. And she’s the most particular, fussy, pernicketty old lady in the world!”
“Oh, she’s dreadful!” sighed Aunt Abbie. “We always spend weeks getting ready for her. She never came so unexpectedly before.”
“But the house is all in order,” suggested Dolly, anxious to be comforting.
“Yes, for the Reading Circle. But not for Aunt Penninah. She looks into every cupboard and storeroom, and, besides, we’ve nothing for dinner.”
“I’ll go get something,” offered Dick. “What do you want?”
“Oh, I don’t know! I don’t know!” groaned Miss Rachel. “Go and send Hannah here. And it’s wash-day, too! And the Reading Club! Oh, what can we do?”
But after the first surprise and bewilderment were over, the Dana ladies rose to the occasion, and did the best they could.
Michael was sent to town for supplies, Hannah was instructed to set the table with special elaboration, and Aunt Abbie herself went into the kitchen and whisked up a pudding.
Delia was still at her washing, and Pat was putting finishing touches to the lawn and flower-beds so they could not be disturbed.
The twins flew about in earnest endeavours to help, but after their breaking a cut-glass vase, and upsetting a small table of bric-?-brac, Aunt Rachel lost patience.
“Dick and Dolly,” she said, “you go upstairs and stay either in your own rooms or in your playroom until dinner is served at one o’clock! Do you understand? No; I’m not scolding, but I’m so put about that you two simply drive me distracted! Now obey me exactly, for that’s all you can do to help. Come down to the library at five minutes to one, – not a minute before. And see that you’re spandy clean, and very nicely dressed. Put on your blue lawn, Dolly, and tie your hair ribbons carefully.”
“Yes’m; Dick’ll tie ’em for me. He does it just lovely.”
Subdued by Aunt Rachel’s desperate manner, the twins crept away, resolved to be very good, and do exactly as they were told.
“It isn’t twelve yet,” said Dick; “no use dressing now. We’d only get all rumpled up. Let’s go up in the playroom.”
So up they went, and began to play with Lady Eliza.
“Hello, ’Liza!” cried Dick, shaking her wax hand cordially. “I haven’t seen you in some time. Are you well?”
“Pretty well,” said Dolly in a squeaky voice. It was part of their play that, whenever either twin spoke to Lady Eliza, the other twin was to answer for her.
“Pretty well. But I’m tired of this old frock, – I want a change.”
“All right,” said Dick; “we’ll fix you up. Let’s rig her up gay, Doll, and we’ll show her off to Aunt Nine.”
“All right,” and Dolly flew to the trunk that contained Lady Eliza’s wardrobe.
They selected an old-fashioned blue silk dress that Aunt Rachel had given them, and proceeded to array Eliza in it. Then Dolly dressed her hair. She loved to do this, for Eliza’s hair was very profuse, if not of very fine texture, and soon Dolly had built a fine array of puffs and curls, with a fancy ornament of blue and silver tucked in at the side.
Then, desiring to make her very grand, Dolly put a necklace of her own round Eliza’s neck, and added several long strings of beads, hung with various trinkets.
“How do I look?” said Dolly in the squeaky voice that always represented Lady Eliza’s talking.
“You look gay,” said Dick. “Perhaps this afternoon you’ll meet a grand lady, Miss Nine Dana. I hope you’ll behave properly.”
“Oh, I’ll behave lovely,” squeaked Eliza, and then the twins ran away to dress for dinner. By quarter of one they were all ready.
Dolly looked very sweet and demure in her frilly blue lawn, and her beautiful hair was tied with a big white bow which Dick had skilfully arranged. By practice his deft little fingers had conquered the science of tying bows, so Dolly’s hair ribbons were always marvels of correct proportions.
They had promised not to go to the library until five minutes of one, and the ten minutes intervening seemed interminable. They drifted back to the playroom to say good-by to Eliza, when Dick had an inspiration.
“Let’s take her down,” he said, “and put her in the dining-room to greet Aunt Nine when we all go out to dinner.”
“Let’s!” cried Dolly, and in a jiffy they were carrying the Lady Eliza Dusenbury silently down the back stairs. By good luck they didn’t encounter Hannah or the aunties, and they reached the dining-room in safety.
“Where shall we stand her?” said Dick. “In the bay window?”
“No,” said Dolly. “Let’s sit her at the table.”
“She won’t sit.”
“Well, we’ll sort of slide her under; if we put her in Aunt Rachel’s big chair she’ll be all right.”
They propped Eliza into the chair, and though she seemed to be falling backward in a swoon, her bright eyes and pink cheeks betokened good health. Her elaborate costume looked fine at the prettily set table, and Dick moved her arms about until they seemed extended in welcome.
“That’s fine!” said Dolly, nodding admiringly at the tableau.
“This is finer!” cried Dick, and taking the large carving-knife from the table, he thrust it into Eliza’s outstretched hand. This was easily done by sticking the knife handle partly up her long tight sleeve, and her effect, as she brandished the glittering steel, was now ferocious.
“Gay!” cried Dolly; “won’t they be s’prised! Come on, Dick, it’s five minutes to one.”
The twins, hand in hand, went into the library, and with their best curtseys were presented to Aunt Penninah.
“These are the children, Aunt Nine,” said Miss Rachel, and Dick and Dolly saw, sitting an a big armchair, the most imposing-looking personage they had ever met.
Miss Penninah Dana was a large and very tall woman, with white hair, and large, piercing black eyes that seemed to see everything.
“H’m; twins, are you?” she said, looking at them over her eyeglasses. “You seem very demure. Are you always so quiet?”
Dick rolled his eyes toward Aunt Rachel.
“Shall we show her?” he whispered, quite ready to pounce on the new aunt if desired.
“Mercy, no!” said Miss Rachel. “Do behave, if you can.”
“Well,” said Dick, answering Aunt Nine’s question, “we’re not always so quiet. But to-day we’re trying to be good because you’re here, and the Reading Circle is coming.”
“But sometimes we’re good when there isn’t company, too,” put in Dolly, not wanting to be misjudged.
“I’m surprised at that!” said Aunt Nine, but there was a merry gleam in her eye, and somehow the twins began to think they were going to like her in spite of her majestic appearance.
Then dinner was announced, and, as the guest arose, the children were impressed afresh with her evident importance.
She walked like a duchess, and seemed to expect everybody to dance attendance upon her.
Aunt Rachel picked up her handkerchief, and Aunt Abbie her vinaigrette, for she dropped them both as she rose.
The twins, greatly interested, walked behind, and they all started toward the dining-room.
As they neared the door, the hostesses stepped back and Aunt Penninah stalked stiffly into the room.
Perhaps it was not to be wondered at, for the figure at the table was certainly startling to look at, and the glittering carving knife was aimed straight at her, but Aunt Penninah threw up both her hands, gave a fearful shriek, and fainted dead away!
“Oh, Aunt Nine, what is the matter?” cried Miss Rachel, bending over her, while Miss Abbie fluttered around distractedly.
They had not yet seen Lady Eliza, as they were so engrossed with their stricken guest.
Nor did it occur to Dick and Dolly, at first, that it was their beloved Eliza that had caused the trouble.
Aunt Penninah began to revive, as Miss Rachel sprinkled water in her face, and Miss Abbie held her strong smelling-salts to her nose.
“Who is it?” she asked, faintly, sitting up on the floor, and pointing to the dangerous-looking person with the carving knife.
“Oh,” cried Dolly, “if she wasn’t scared at Lady Eliza! Why, that’s nobody, Aunt Nine! Only just a wax doll.”
“Take that thing away!” said Miss Rachel, sternly, as she realised what had happened.
Dick and Dolly fairly jumped. Aunt Rachel had never spoken to them in that tone before, and they suddenly realised that it had been naughty to put Eliza at the table, though they had thought it only a joke. Silently, the twins began to lift Eliza from her chair, when Aunt Nine screamed out:
“Come away, children! You’ll be killed! Oh, Rachel, who is she?”
“Nobody, Aunt Nine. It’s a doll, a wax dummy that belongs to the children. They put her there for fun, I suppose.”
“Fun!” roared Aunt Penninah, glaring at the twins. “Do you call it fun to frighten me out of my senses?”
As her speech and manner nearly frightened the twins out of their senses, they were pretty nearly even, but apparently the old lady was waiting for an answer.
“We thought it would be fun,” said Dolly, truthfully. “You see, we didn’t know how easily you scared.”
“Easily scared, indeed! Who wouldn’t be scared to come into a room and find a strange woman brandishing a carving knife in my very face! A nice pair of children you are! Leave the room at once, – or else I shall!”
Dick and Dolly were bewildered by this tornado of wrath, and began to edge toward the hall door, keeping out of reach of the irate lady.
But Miss Rachel, though deeply mortified and seriously annoyed at the twins’ mischief, was a strong stickler for justice, and she well knew, Dick and Dolly had meant only a harmless joke.
“Now, Aunt Nine,” she said; “don’t take this so seriously. The children meant no harm, they wanted to amuse you; and had it not been for the carving knife, I daresay you would have found the Lady Eliza very funny indeed.”
“Funny! that horrible thing with her staring eyes! Take her away so I can eat my dinner!”
At a gesture from Aunt Abbie, Hannah and Dick removed the offending Eliza, and returned the carving knife to the sideboard. As Eliza was a great friend of both Hannah and Delia, she was allowed to stand in the butler’s pantry all through dinner time.
“Well, what do you say, Aunt Nine?” said Aunt Abbie, “may the twins sit at table, or would you rather have them sent from the room?”
“Oh, let them stay,” said the old lady, not very graciously. “I’ve no desire to be too severe, but that awful sight shocked my nerves, and I may never get over it.”
This awful outlook grieved Dolly’s tender heart, and she flew to the old lady and clasped her hand, while she said:
“I’m so sorry, Aunt Nine! I didn’t know you had nerves, and I thought you’d be ’mused to see Lady Eliza sitting there. I don’t know how we happened to give her the carving knife. But we ’most always put something in her hand. I wish we’d thought of a fan! That would have been pretty, and it wouldn’t have hurt your nervousness, – would it?”
“Perhaps not,” said Aunt Penninah, grimly, but she couldn’t help smiling at pretty little Dolly, who was caressing her be-ringed old hand, and looking imploringly up into her face.
Then she turned to Dick.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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